Northwestern Events Calendar


American Politics Workshop: Prof. Adam Levine

When: Friday, April 22, 2022
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM Central

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Stephen Monteiro   (847) 491-7451

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Global & Civic Engagement


Please join the American Politics Workshop as they host Dr. Adam Seth Levine, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management in the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.


Those who seek change – grassroots activists, policymakers, researchers, nonprofit managers, community members – share much in common: they need to work with others and they need to strategize about what to do. While they each bring valuable expertise to understanding the problems they care about, no single individual knows everything they need to know to develop effective strategy. New collaborative relationships are essential. They entail back-and-forth interaction with others who bring diverse forms of expertise to the problems that people seek to address. Collaborative relationships are how people go from recognizing a problem (e.g., children from marginalized backgrounds are underperforming in school) to devising a strategy about what to do (e.g., we need an after-school program, we need policy change, this is how to achieve these goals, this is how to evaluate our efforts). Effective strategy enables successful collective action, and effective strategy is the result of talk.

In short, expertise typically does not become useful for solving problems in civic life on its own. Rather, it becomes useful in conversation with others. Yet there’s a big catch: new collaborative relationships are often voluntary and involve interacting with strangers, and don’t arise on their own. In this talk, which is based on a new book manuscript, I unpack why not, and what can we do about it. Using a combination of case studies, field experiments, and observational data, I find that even when decision-makers know why engaging with potential collaborators would be beneficial, they are uncertain about how to do so successfully. I also test new ways of making these connections. Ultimately, my goal is use-inspired basic research: advancing scientific understanding about the foundations of collaborative relationships in civic life, while also providing actionable guidance for those who seek change and want to foster new relationships themselves.


Many questions pique Dr. Adam Seth Levine's interest and excitement. The top ones are: “When do ordinary citizens become engaged in civic and political life, and with what impact?” and “How do diverse people work together to address problems in their community?”

A vibrant democracy demands both engagement and collaboration, yet that often does not happen. Why not? What barriers arise, and how can civic organizations and other institutions help overcome these barriers? A common thread throughout his work is that there are often tensions between aspects of human psychology and what civic engagement entails. His research illuminates these tensions in order to improve our understanding of the various ways that new engagement and collaboration can arise.

Adam is currently studying the role of science in American life, and in particular when scientists collaborate with civic and political leaders to address pressing public health, environmental, and other challenges (click here for several examples of these findings). Here a tension arises because these collaborations often entail strangers working together, yet many people are hesitant to interact with strangers even if they share interests and concerns. His work identifies key relational factors that, along with effective communication, help spur new successful collaborations. Thanks to generous support from the Rita Allen Foundation, he’s currently devoting substantial time to a new book. The tentative title is Seeking Science: When, Why, and How Community Leaders Bridge a Cultural Divide.

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